Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Japanese innovation on steroids: Robot babies

A baby robot designed to “invoke an emotional connection” has been unveiled in Japan, where plummeting birth rates have left many couples without children.

The Kirobo Mini was created by Toyota’s non-automotive department and is equiped with artificial intelligence and a camera so it can recognise the face of the person speaking to it and respond.

“He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby which hasn’t fully developed the skills to balance itself,” said Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini’s chief design engineer. “This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection.”

Toyota plans to sell Kirobo Mini, which blinks its eyes and speaks with a baby-like high-pitched voice, for 39,800 yen (£300/US$390) in Japan next year. It comes with a “cradle” that doubles as its baby seat designed to fit in car cup holders.

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